We take a closer look at the man who caused the biggest upset so far this year at the US Open, defeating two-time champion Rafael Nadal in a five-set thriller.
The lesser-known Pouille is part of a flourishing crop of French players in the midst of great form.
Fellow countrymen, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and the flashy Gael Monfils are also through to the last eight and usually do a good job in stealing the French headlines away from Pouille…but not this time.
The world number 25 crunched 59 winners to defeat the mercurial Nadal on Sunday and seal his place in the quarter-finals for the first time at Flushing Meadows.
FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS
Picking up the game later than most – eight-years-old – Pouille failed to make a mark in his junior days, once reaching the quarter-finals of the 2011 Junior Australian Open.
But two years later, after a number of positive results on the Challenger Tour, he became one of two teenagers to finish the year in the top 200.
A full year on the ATP Tour in 2014 would see him earn the biggest wins of his young career – over Ivo Karlovic and Fabio Fognini – and see him move closer to breaking into the top 100.
2015 would see the Dubai resident feature in all four grand slams and despite suffering first round exits in all four, his highlight would come from reaching the semi-finals of an ATP World Tour 500 event for the first time at the German Open.
A COMING OF AGE
This year, using his trusty powerful forehand, Pouille has continued his rise. The win over Nadal was no ‘flash in the pan’, as he has recorded three wins against top ten players in 2016 and one victory over the resurgent Juan Martin Del Potro.
However, what makes his result against Nadal all the more special is the amount of tennis Pouille has played beforehand. The Frenchman played 14 sets in three matches before Sunday. Add in Sunday’s result and Pouille has played a remarkable 19 out of 20 possible sets in New York. Taxing stuff, unless you’re 22-years-old and living your dream, that is.
Such is his resilience, Pouille is ranked second behind only the indomitable Novak Djokovic in the percentage of tiebreaks won on the ATP Tour this year. We’ll just let that sink in for a while…
In only his third year as a professional, Pouille is knocking on the door of the world top 20 and punching above his weight is becoming the norm.
He will have to do so once again in an All-French affair against Monfils in the quarters on Tuesday and while you fancy the wear and tear of five-set thrillers will start to show, anything is possible when two fired up Frenchman are trading blows across the net.
Ready the popcorn and get comfortable folks, this one is sure to be a goodie.
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